Making a drama
We spoke to two alumni who are forging successful careers as acclaimed playwrights. They told us about their education, work, and the role drama can play in modern life.
Rosanna Hall is from Edinburgh and has completed two degrees at the University of Edinburgh: an MA (Hons) in Philosophy and English Literature; and an MSc in Writing for Theatre and Performance (now known as Playwriting).
Dividing her time between Glasgow and Edinburgh, Rosanna's work as an Opportunity Coordinator involves delivering employability workshops with hard-to-reach young people, care leavers and young offenders.
As Rosanna explains: “I use drama techniques to build their confidence in addition to scriptwriting with them and helping them realise their ideas. It inspires me that drama and performance can affect lasting change, with the power to help people share stories, build resilience and see other ways that their lives can be realised.”
In the course of her work, she draws on a number of aspects of her MSc, including practical script writing knowledge, ideas for workshops and writing prompts, and the connections she's made as part of a community of writers and actors.
In addition to her work with young people, Rosanna is also a freelance playwright and theatre facilitator.
Citing her biggest achievement as “having my first full-length play ‘Two Girls’ performed at Terratoria Festival in Moscow, Russia”, she has also had work performed at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre and London’s Southwark Playhouse.
A member of the BBC Writers Room, and recipient of a Playwright’s Studio, Scotland ‘New Playwrights Award’, she particularly likes making political work, geared towards the sections of society to which theatre does not normally speak.
And asked what she loved about studying at Edinburgh, Rosanna is in no doubt:
"The good sense of community and lots of support."
Brandon Shalansky studied Creative Writing and Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, and worked in the theatre industry, before moving to Edinburgh in 2016 to complete the MSc in Playwrighting.
The move to Edinburgh sparked a willingness to work between two different countries: “Edinburgh is my favourite city in the world," says Brandon. "Living somewhere so beautiful and stimulating was such a blessing. Also, I loved how easy it was to get around, and how close everything was compared to Canada.”
The opportunity to study under playwright Nicola McCartney was a big draw, says Brandon: “I was very fond of her play ‘Heritage’, and was thrilled at the opportunity to work with her”. He also appreciated the chance to have a public, professional reading of his work-in-progress at the Traverse Theatre as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
“Coming back to the theatre community over here with my Masters has provided tons of opportunities," he says. "Knowing that I studied in Scotland, with the opportunity to work with the Playwrights’ Studio and the Traverse Theatre during the festivals, people were very excited to work on new projects with me.”
In addition to acting, directing and teaching with various companies and schools, Brandon now works as a playwright. Fred Skeleton Theatre Company is debuting ‘Adrift’ in British Columbia in July this year and, in the UK, ‘Risotto’ ran as part of the Science Fiction Festival in May 2018.
Reflecting on his biggest achievements in the past year, he cites “putting the pieces of my (perhaps too) ambitious dissertation play together, and getting through each draft. I was very humbled to come out with a distinction.”
“When you get past all the work, and headache, and heartache of being a playwright, it really is fun. I love doing what I do.”
“Also, maybe the ability to apply what I’ve learned to other disciplines too? I’m finding more and more adrenaline applying what I know about playwriting to other non-theatre projects and collaborations, like acting, podcasts, and maybe even a graphic novel.”
'Pre-view' - the professional readings of the final plays of this year's graduating Playwrighting students - takes place in the Traverse Theatre on 6 and 13 August 2018.
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